It seems that almost everywhere you go, more and more public WIFI services are available. Even stores like Home Depot are now providing free Internet access to their customers. Add these to the long list of hotels, restaurants, airports and coffee shops and it's getting hard to find places where you DON'T have WIFI access for your phone, tablet or laptop. The question is, "How safe is public WIFI?"
The general answer is that public WIFI is not safe at all. You can assume that someone is eavesdropping on everything you type or receive on your mobile device. This includes usernames, passwords, authentication tokens, text, images and binary data files. One might assume from this that it is extremely risky to even connect to these public WIFI systems. As soon as you connect, your device will try to check your email, providing your username and password for anyone who cares to eavesdrop on the conversation.
On the other hand, if you take precautionary measures, there is no reason NOT to use public WIFI.
Email is your biggest risk because it is constantly reconnecting with the mail server and resending your credentials. At Razyr we have addressed this problem by ensuring that all Razyr email customers only use encrypted connections to our servers. All of your inbound and outbound traffic goes through an encrypted tunnel that offers the same level of security as online banking systems. Your username, password and all messages are secured from prying eyes. If you follow the guidelines we provide at this link, there is no reason you can't enjoy accessing your email while you roam from hotspot to hotspot.
So far as web browsing via WIFI, you should assume that anything you are searching for and finding via Google for example is being watched by persons unknown. So is it safe to shop online or do online banking from your local Starbucks? It's as safe as doing it from your own home or from the office. Reputable online shopping carts and banking systems all use SSL connections. That's an encrypted tunnel. Any time you connect to a site where the URL begins with HTTPS:// you are using a tunnel and can feel relatively warm, fuzzy and secure about your transaction.
Are these systems foolproof? Probably not, however the banks and the credit card companies are confident enough in them today that they insure all of your transactions against fraud. They are conducting biliions of dollars of online transactions every week. If the technology is good enough for them, you can probably trust it enough to make use of WIFI as you see fit.
Razry Email = Secure
HTTPS: Web connections = Secure
Everything else - Untrusted, so keep your wits about you, regardless of whether you're at home or using your laptop in an airport.